The first thing I notice about Stefan McClure from his highlights is his instinct. McClure is always getting his hands on the ball, regardless of whether he's on offense or defense. And they're real snares, catches that he puts right in his pocket. McClure has good awareness of the football whereever he's playing, and that's a real important attribute for a cornerback to possess.
Statistics: 58 catches, 1317 receiving yards, 13 touchdowns on offense; 48 tackles, four interceptions including a pick-six, nine pass break-ups, and a forced fumble his senior season. Also worth noticing: SIX blocked punts his junior season! While he didn't have many picks at Vista, offenses were probably trying their best to throw away from him, so it can't really be an assessor of his interception skills.
Interceptions: One of the reasons Al Simmons was let go was the inability for his defensive backs to force turnovers by snaring picks or knocking balls loose. Clancy Pendergast wants the defense to force turnovers (who doesn't?), and McClure represents a positive step in that direction.
The Army All-American Bowl pick is one great example of the confidence McClure has in catching the ball. Many defensive backs will secure that ball first before taking another step forward in fear of losing grasp of that ball. McClure catches that in stride and keeps on moving downfield. That's confidence in your hands right there.
Now keep in mind, these are highlights, and we can't measure whether he's this consistent on all his plays. But his fluidity on his catches (particularly on the difficult plays) bodes well.
Two-ways? Although there's a lot to like about McClure's receiver production, I'm not so sure McClure can be a starting wide receiver for us. Although he proves he can make a plethora of great offensive catches, he's mostly outrunning coverages and the quarterback is gunning it up for him. He could be useful on a handful of special possessions, but at 5'11 he doesn't have the ideal height for a college receiver unless he has some elite speed to go with it.
Still, there are some nice things to look at on this tape. I like his ability to fight for the ball on some of this tape, which will serve him well when he's forced to defend the fade route or any sort of jump balls. He has a solid vertical leap that allows him the lift over defenders in man coverage and be a disruptive presence when playing back in his zone, meaning he should have a chance to at least get a hand on the balls thrown his way.
All in all, he reminds me a lot of Darian Hagan in his measurables and the way he plays tight up on the ball. But there are some extra things McClure does that could make him an even greater standout Pac-12 defensive back.
Tackling. While the coverage was good, the tackling was equally impressive. When Vista moved him out to safety, McClure plays like a man with ten extra pounds of muscle under his belt. He straight out clocks ball-carriers without any fear, and with good tackling form too.
McClure shows that he can tackle ball-carriers while standing up (usually in coverage) or going low to take out the knees (usually when running toward the sidelines on an angle). As a safety, McClure does a good job leading with his shoulder, wrapping up his man, and knocking him to the ground. You can be sure that receivers are going to have to earn their keep against McClure next year. Now, some of this is because he's playing way off the ball in deep safety coverage, but McClure seems to be able to defend the pass like a corner and tackle solidly as a safety. That's great versatility.
Needs improvement: Like almost any pure high school athlete, he tends to get a little lazy with his ball placement and holds it like he's running a track meet. The ball is out there and can get punched out by any defenders catching up on him from behind, and that's not something you want to see after a huge interception. It's not terrible, but it's not great either. Hopefully it's fixable.
That's about all the criticism I could muster off the top. Kid's got a future.
Links: Good interview here. Definitely a well-spoken individual.
Here he is at the Army All-American Bowl.
Projection: McClure could play this year. Cal has two solid starting corners (Marc Anthony, Steve Williams), one capable backup (Josh Hill), and a blueshirt frosh we don't know much about (Adrian Lee). Obviously the Bears don't like to burn blueshirts earlier than they need to, but McClure could be ready to go now.
In the unlikely but pleasing (pleasing because Cal's secondary will have outperformed expectations) event that McClure doesn't play, he should play in 2012 (with a decent shot to win the starting position). With the cupboard pretty bare on corners right now, he's also likely to start his final two/three seasons. McClure's commitment was perhaps one of the top five important pickups last year, and he's going to have a great shot to make his mark early.